Giving Thanks Amidst the Trauma

The Western world is on pins and needles in the wake of the Paris attacks. More attacks are promised by these deranged, religiously motivated murderers. In the midst of the trauma, can we still celebrate Thanksgiving?

A refresher on our nation's roots is in order. Thanksgiving isn't first about turkeys or football or even Pilgrims or Native Americans. It's a day to pause as a nation and thank Almighty God for His mercy and goodness to us. Here's a brief look at the origins of this uniquely American holiday.

God brought Squanto, a Native American who understood the Pilgrims' language, to help them survive the harsh conditions of the New World. Of particular importance, Squanto taught the newcomers how to plant the winter staple crop of corn. The Pilgrims shared the gospel with their new friend. Before his death in 1621, Squanto asked them to pray for him that he would be with God in heaven.

In gratitude to God for saving the threatened harvest that year, Pilgrims invited other Native Americans to share in a feast of thanksgiving to the one true God over heaven and earth. The record is clear that on that first observance of Thanksgiving the Pilgrims and Native Americans together gave thanks to God for the long, gentle rain that broke a severe drought and saved the harvest - and their lives.

Shortly after our nation's independence had been won, Congress approved the Bill of Rights in 1789, attaching a "recommended day of public thanksgiving and prayer." President George Washington responded with the first presidential proclamation in the United States, declaring November 26, 1789, as the first national day of prayer and thanksgiving.

In his proclamation, Washington declared, "[I]t is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor . . . I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be . . . And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions . . ."

Seventy-five years later as the bitter years of the Civil War came to a close, President Abraham Lincoln established the last Thursday in November as a day to acknowledge "the gracious gifts of the Most High God." Every succeeding president did the same until 1941 when Congress officially made Thanksgiving a national holiday.

The very fact that I can freely dispense this information reminds us of the liberty God has still graciously provided us. Every day of freedom is a gift from God. What I've shared with you is an indisputable part of our national record and history. Let me encourage you to share this with your children and grandchildren this Thanksgiving.